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How Women Can Find a Financial Advisor They Love

Women are looking for financial advisors who have distinctive characteristics.

When women want to find a financial advisor, they may be looking for different professional qualities than their male counterparts would do. Females may respond better or worse to an advisor’s communication style and their approach to managing finances. They may have distinct expectations that are born from a woman’s unique point of view and life experiences. In this case, it’s true that not all financial advisors are created equal!

Whether you are single, married, divorced or widowed, we want to take the opportunity to share a few tips for women who are looking to settle down with a financial advisor.

Make It Personal

Women may want to build a personal relationship with their financial advisor, so if that’s you, then it’s important to work with someone with whom you feel comfortable being totally open and honest. Just like real life, not every advisor is a great match for your needs or personality. As you are searching for “the one,” be sure you feel that he or she understands your goals and priorities…on more than just a financial level.

Get a Feel for Confidence

Does your financial advisor inspire you to be in charge of your future? Of course, he or she is supposed to guide you along the way, but an advisor who helps educate you also empowers you. Women may respond better to a professional who can help them understand the complex world of finances and then support them as they make important decisions. Look for a financial advisor who makes you feel informed and capable.

Feel Better about Risk and Security

When a financial advisor understands a woman’s concerns about financial risk (say, when choosing investments vs. money in the bank) and, consequently, financial security, they may be able to better serve female clients. You may already recognize that the returns on investments may be far greater than money in a savings account, yet you may also need someone who can make sense of the decision to invest your money over time. Women who find a financial advisor with these qualities may feel more comfortable as they move through different stages of life.

Finally, when trying to select a financial advisor, consider their credentials. You’ll want to work with a Certified Financial Planner (what is this?) who has experience in managing funds and wealth. It also doesn’t hurt to work with an advisor who carries multiple awards for their work with female clients.

For questions on financial planning, retirement and other services for women, contact Guidant Wealth Advisors at (847) 330-9911.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

What’s the Difference between an IRA and a 401(k)?

When you hear about retirement accounts, you’ll often catch the terms IRA (individual retirement account) and 401(k) – a qualified retirement plan offered through an employer. Even though there are other types of accounts available for retirement savings, we’re going to focus on IRAs and 401(k)s and the differences between them. Hopefully, this helps you choose the right type of savings for your situation.

Contribution Limits

Both the IRA and the 401(k) retirement savings accounts have separate annual contribution limits. They are as follows:

  •      IRA: Up to $5,500 or 100% of your compensation, whichever is lesser, or up to $6,500 if you are age 50 or older.
  •      401(k): Up to $18,000, or up to $24,000 for ages 50 and older, along with a 25% match of the contributions.

Income Limitations

When it comes to limitations on your income, the difference between an IRA and a 401(k) is big. With an IRA, if you make too much money, you may not be able to make contributions. The traditional and Roth IRA have different limitations for income.  In a 401(k) retirement savings account, however, there are no income limitations. Whether you have a traditional or Roth 401(k), you are allowed to put as much savings as you want in that account.

Borrowing

You may have heard you can borrow money from your retirement accounts. When it comes to IRAs and 401(k)s, the rules couldn’t be more different. In an IRA, you can take the money out for 60 days and, as long as you put it back within those 60 days, there is no penalty or taxes. The 401(k) does not offer this 60-day program; however, if the plan allows there are borrowing provisions that allow you to withdraw $50,000 or up to 50% of your balance. Note: upon separation from the employer any remaining loan balance may become taxable including penalty taxes if under the age of 59.5.

 

Taxes

Both the IRA and 401(k) are tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicles, but the ways in which they are taxed can vary. For example, contributions to a traditional IRA and a 401(k) account are made with pre-tax dollars, meaning the money is not taxed before going into the account. Contributions to Roth IRAs, on the other hand, are taxed before going into the account. It’s good to know the differences between an IRA and 401(k) in regards to taxes because it can affect your finances when you take distributions later on.

To determine which account is right for you, we recommend speaking with an attorney, CPA or your financial advisor. It’s important to understand all the pros and cons associated with each retirement savings account before moving forward.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Guidant Wealth Advisors and LPL Financial do not provide legal advice or services.

The Challenges of Financial Planning When Your Child Has Autism

Young Boy Standing by the Water

Families with Autistic children face special challenges in financial planning.

April is National Autism Awareness Month, so we wanted to shed some light on the challenges of financial planning for parents who have Autistic children. We hope this overview clarifies some of the options available to you as your child grows, so that you can move forward with confidence for your family.

From Two Incomes to One

Sometimes, parents who have children with Autism decide to quit their jobs in order to stay home with the child. This obviously reduces the amount of household income, but it also eliminates the expense of daycare. However, one thing to keep in mind is that Autistic children often require therapy or other in-home services, which may or may not be covered under your health insurance plan. Studies by Psychiatry Online revealed that 36 percent of private health insurance plans completely exclude Autism-related expenses.

If you are considering leaving your job to stay at home, then be sure you look at all of the expenses first. The last thing you want is to be in a financial bind as you are working through the emotions of raising an Autistic child.

Special Educational Costs

For many parents, early intervention is key. Many districts develop what’s called an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to customize the child’s learning from beginning to end. However, you may need to fill the gaps with private services, and that may or may not be covered under federal programs. The IDEA Act ensures access to some educational services, but be sure you know what you’re responsible for outside of the program.

Planning for the Future

When you die, you’ll want to be sure your child is taken care of financially. This is one of the biggest challenges of financial planning when you have Autistic children. You must plan for your own retirement, but that includes planning for your child as he or she graduates high school, potentially goes to college, becomes employed, and perhaps lives on their own.

For many parents, this involves setting up a special needs trust, or supplemental trust. Instead of leaving assets directly to your child, you leave it to the trust. This way, they don’t lose out on the benefits of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. When you have a trust, you assign a trustee who will be in charge of spending money on the child’s behalf.

If you want to to plan for the impact of Autism on your finances, then be sure to speak with a financial planner as well as an attorney. You’ll want to know the best strategy for taking care of your child – and yourselves – as you grow older.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Guidant Wealth Advisors and LPL Financial do not provide legal advice or services.

Widows Should File Carefully for Social Security Survivor Benefits

Widow Signing Social Security Survivor Benefits Paperwork

Widows can maximize Social Security benefits with the right guidance.

Social Security can be complicated and frustrating for anyone. When you’re a recent widow, Social Security survivor benefits can seem especially overwhelming. You’re not only sorting through rules and paperwork; you’re also sorting through new emotions and situations.

It’s a tough time to have to figure out how to apply, so we wanted to share some key ideas to keep in mind once you decide to file for your and/or your spouse’s monthly benefits. It may just help you generate more income over your lifetime.

Are You Eligible for Widow’s Social Security Survivor Benefits?

Depending on your situation, you may not know which benefits you are eligible for or which ones to take and when. For starters, you may be eligible for widow’s survivor benefits* as long as you meet these conditions:

  •      You were married for at least 9 months (waived if caring for child of deceased spouse who is under the age of 16)
  •      You are at least 60 years old (age 50 if you are disabled, or at any age if caring for child of deceased spouse who is under the age of 16)

You may also be able collect an immediate one-time death benefit* payment of $255 at any age.

In general, the longer you wait to collect survivor benefits, the more you may receive. As with traditional social security benefits, there is a survivor full retirement age (FRA)*; however, it may be different than the FRA for your own benefits, so it’s important to check both.

If you decide to collect right away and you are not at your FRA, then you may receive a reduced amount* each month.

Of course, you may not be eligible for widow’s Social Security survivor benefits if you’re already collecting your own Social Security. More on that below.

Other Eligibility Requirements for Widow’s Survivor Benefits*

Whether or not you qualify to receive survivor benefits also depends on a few more factors. For example:

  •      If You Both Started Claiming – If you and your spouse had already been receiving your benefits before the death occurred, then the higher benefit amount becomes the survivor benefit. The lower of the two amounts will be stopped.
  •      If Your Deceased Spouse Had Begun Benefits, But You Had Not – You may be able to claim the survivor benefit and then stop when you claim your own social security benefits at a later age. However, this situation can be tricky, so we recommend speaking with a qualified financial advisor about your specific situation.
  •      If Neither of You Had Started Claiming – This situation can also be tough to navigate on your own. In general, to maximize your benefits, you may want to delay applying for social security benefits for the higher of the two incomes. For example, if you have the lower of the two incomes, then you may be able to maximize your benefits by filing for your own social security now – and then filing for the spousal benefit at the FRA in the chart above, in which case you may receive the full amount your spouse would have received if he or she were alive.

Again, social security is tremendously complicated. If you file for survivor or social security benefits, then you may not be able to collect other benefits later on. We highly recommend speaking with a financial advisor, tax professional and the Social Security Administration to gain a well-rounded view of your financial options.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
*   criteria for benefits mentioned are according to the Social Security Administration at the time of this blog being published. Conditions can change at any time, please consult the Social Security Administration website at www.saa.gov, or speak with a qualified financial advisor.

The Reverse Mortgage and Retirement Income

Reverse Mortgage Written on Paper Lying on Money

Can a reverse mortgage support your retirement plans?

Making ends meet in retirement can be downright challenging. Even when you do feel prepared, an unexpected health issue or surprise home repair can sometimes throw you off course. And now, Social Security benefits may not be enough retirement income to support your lifestyle.

So how can retirees generate more income for the type of retirement they desire?

One strategy may be the reverse mortgage.

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

As the name suggests, a reverse mortgage is the opposite of a traditional home mortgage. Instead of paying down a loan to build equity in your home, you use the equity in your home to receive money.  

Not everyone qualifies for a reverse mortgage, but if you do you may choose to receive the funds in a lump sum, in a series of payments, or you may treat it as a line of credit and only take the money out when you need it.

It’s probably becoming pretty clear how this can help you generate additional retirement income. Instead of relying on your Social Security benefits or using up your retirement accounts, you may be able to leverage your home equity for a reliable stream of income.

Reap the Benefits and Know the Risks

With a reverse mortgage, you only pay back the loan once you sell your home. So this type of loan can create retirement income, provided you adhere to all of the program’s regulations.

But let’s say you’re not living in your home for a certain period of time. Whether it’s for work or a long-term absence, you may have to pay back your loan. Or, if you fail to maintain the home, the bank may require you to repay the money.

State and federal laws have highly regulated these programs; however, there are still risks associated with this lending tool. It’s a good idea to speak with your loan officer or banking professional who can help you understand the risks and implications of applying for and using a reverse mortgage.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. There are significant costs associated with Reverse Mortgages, such as: Up-front mortgage premiums, annual premiums, origination fees, closing costs, monthly service charges, appraisal fees and your Medicaid may be affected.

Do I Need an Emergency Fund in Retirement?

Do You Need Emergency Funds in Retirement?

Emergency funds are different once you’re in retirement.

Throughout your life, you’ve probably heard that an emergency fund is a must – or, at least, a very good idea. If you lost your job, those savings would hopefully be able to cover your expenses until you found a new job. But what about after those working years – do you still need an emergency fund in retirement?

Emergencies in Retirement May Be Different

When your working life comes to a close, you may no longer be concerned about losing a job or needing emergency cash to cover you in that instance. Instead, retirement may come with another set of emergencies. While different than they were before, these emergencies can sometimes require you to have additional funds on hand.

For example, if you’re dealing with a medical issue or your home needs major repairs, you may need to pay for anything insurance doesn’t cover. Remember, you’re no longer receiving income from an employer, so now you have to fund emergencies with other sources of income.

Your Emergency Funds May Be Different, Too

It’s still a good idea to have access to liquid cash when you need it, so you may want to keep that savings account active. Outside your traditional emergency stash, however, you may have other types of funds you can tap.

Home equity lines of credit, for example, can leverage the equity in your home and may give you access to  additional cash. Reverse mortgages may also be an option, but may come with additional rules and regulations to consider first.

You may also lean more on your insurance as an emergency fund in retirement. Medicare may cover some of your health expenses, as may supplemental and long-term care insurance. Home repairs and maintenance may be covered under your homeowner’s insurance plan. While they may not cover everything that comes up during retirement, insurance can be much better than paying for it all out-of-pocket.

To discover what types of emergency funds you may need for retirement, be sure to talk with a financial advisor who specializes in retirement planning.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Is Social Security Enough Income for Retirement?

Social Security Card and American Currency

Social security is a major source of income for older Americans, but is it enough to support your retirement?

The National Academy of Social Insurance says one in four Americans aged 65 and older are using Social Security as the sole source of income. That means the other 75 percent of the retired population may be finding these benefits are not enough to cover expenses in retirement.

Of course, the Social Security program was never designed to cover all of retirees’ expenses. The monthly benefits only replace about 40 percent of the average pre-retirement income, with the remainder left to the responsibility of retirees.

In order to work towards filling this gap in retirement, you may want to plan on saving between 70 and 80 percent of your pre-retirement income. That sounds like a lot, but there are ways to help spur those savings over time. (If you currently have a pension, you may be able to adjust your personal savings and investments.)

For example, you may want to consider making contributions to an IRA or 401(k), which help your money grow tax-deferred until retirement. This can sometimes supplement your social security benefits and help you cover the basic expenses and support your retirement lifestyle.

Wondering what your expenses might look like in retirement? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans aged 65-74 spent an average of $4,123/month in 2015. If you consider the average monthly social security benefit is $1,360, then even two people on social security can’t cover the monthly expenses with their combined $2,720/month.

Whether you’re close to retirement or have a few decades before that time, you can always start saving for your later years. It can be to your advantage to explore a few options that include social security but don’t depend on it as a primary source of income.

 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

This Isn’t Your Parents’ Retirement

2 Retirees in Leaves with Feet in Air

Retirement doesn’t have to be up in the air – but it’s probably different than your parents’ experiences.

Pensions, early retirement, and spending the Golden Years at active adult communities are practically relics. Nowadays, some Baby Boomers are looking at an entirely different type of retirement from the one their parents had, and those who are even younger may see additional changes as they plan for the future.

How Retirement is Different Today

The full retirement age for social security benefits is 67. For decades, the full retirement age (FRA) in the eyes of the Social Security Administration (SSA) was 65 years old. That has changed, however, and for anyone who was born in 1960 or later, the FRA is now 67 years old. Your social security benefits may vary depending on when you were born and when you start to collect.

Out with the pension, in with the 401(k). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, just a quarter of Americans working today have the security of a pension – most of them union members. Due to rising costs, many employers dropped pension plans and replaced them with employee retirement programs, such as the 401(k). This puts the burden of saving for retirement on employees, making it even more important to contribute enough to your retirement plan.

The line between work and retirement isn’t much of a line. Due to the changes in social security benefits and employee retirement plans – and because people are living longer in general – you may need to work more years than your parents did in order to have enough money to retire. Of course, some “retirees” are going back to work not only for cash flow but also because they genuinely enjoy working.

Fewer commitments to retirement communities. Once upon a time, retirees flew the coop for warmer climates and heavily advertised retirement meccas in Florida and Arizona. Nowadays, some retirees are choosing to age in place –modifying a current home to accommodate physical changes later in life – or are transferring to foreign countries where the cost of living may be cheaper.

We’re living longer, and that’s costing more in retirement. Medical advances have made it possible to extend our life expectancies; however, some people may require even more medical and health care as they age. In fact, the average 65-year-old couple will need upwards of $400,000 to cover health care in retirement, according to Fidelity Benefits Consulting..

The days of spending retirement as an “extended vacation” seem like a fairytale, but that doesn’t mean your retirement has to be anything less. In fact, now that you know what to expect, it can help you be even more prepared for the lifestyle you want to have…whether that’s opening up your own business or starting adventures in your new home abroad.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Insurance guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the issuer.

Women and Finances: Why Women May Need Life Insurance

3 Smiling Women of Different Ages

Some women may need life insurance to protect their futures.

Women’s roles at home and in the workplace are evolving and – along with them – contributions to household finances. Women may need life insurance to protect the value of those assets as well as the non-tangible duties that may help to keep the home running like a fine-tuned machine.

How Women are Creating Financial Assets   

There’s no doubt about it, women are super creative when it comes to generating income for themselves and their families. Whether as a single woman, single parent, or aligned with a spouse or partner, some females are finding new ways to continue working and/or balance the home-work life.

For example, mompreneurs – women who set up and run their own businesses as well as care for their children – are increasing along with a growing number of females who enter the workforce. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s infographic, women’s participation in the labor force is up by 53 percent between 1963 and 2012. The National Association of Women Business Owners says one in five firms with revenue of $1 million or more are woman-owned businesses.

Women May Need Life Insurance for Protection

As we can see, women are making important financial contributions. While some women are staying in the workforce for their entire careers, others are finding ways to balance parenthood and careers. But no matter which approach is preferred, it can be critical to protect those financial assets with life insurance.

Life insurance is like a safeguard for the spouse and/or the rest of the family. If the woman dies, then a life insurance may help cover funeral expenses and cover the day-to-day bills or outstanding debt. This also means the family won’t have to disrupt an existing savings or retirement plan to manage the household expenses, which can keep their future plans in tact.

For women who handle the majority of the household tasks and care for their children, a life insurance policy may help the family cover the costs of childcare, transportation, and household chores if the woman should die.

Women may need life insurance today more than ever before. It not only makes it easier on a grieving family, but it can also safeguard the financial future of everyone involved.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Insurance guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the issuer.

Why Do I Need an Annual Financial Plan Review?

Couple Reviewing Financial Plan with Advisor

Make time for an annual review of your financial plan.

You’re still married. You still have two kids. You still plan to retire in 5-10 years. Everything is the same, so why is a review of your financial plan so important? Here are a few of the reasons we encourage a financial plan review every year, no matter what.

Tax Codes

Each year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announces a new set of tax codes. It may include an adjustment to the tax brackets, the addition or removal of tax incentives, revised guidelines for certain exemptions, or a number of other amendments. Depending on your circumstances, these may or may not have an impact on your financial plan. Since it’s hard to keep up with the changes from year to year, a financial plan review is a good opportunity to make sure you’re prepared to make adjustments on your end.

IRA Contributions

Once you reach a certain age, you may be able to contribute more money to your IRA accounts. For some, this is a valuable advantage that will help work towards retirement goals. When you schedule an annual review of your financial plan, your advisors can discuss these opportunities with you and update your plan to accommodate for greater contributions. Without the review, you may miss out on these important stepping-stones toward retirement.

Investment Strategy

When your advisor initially created a financial plan, you probably reviewed your savings and investments goals together. It’s a good idea to revisit those plans each year, to ensure you’re on track as far as time frame, risk tolerance, and specific preferences. If market conditions over the past year gave you concern, then meeting with your advisor can help you decide whether or not your accounts need to be rebalanced.

Insurance

If you’re nearing retirement age, then you may have a life insurance policy that needs adjusting. You may want to drive more funds to a health insurance plan that can help you with medical expenses as you age. There are also certain deadlines for enrolling in Medicare, so you’ll want to discuss how those changes may affect your financial plan.

Of course, if you have experienced any major changes with your career or family, then you may not want to wait for your annual review. Events such as death, illness, marriage, divorce, job change, injury or other occurrences may have an immediate affect on your financial plan.

The bottom line is, an annual review of your financial plan is important because you may not realize the events or changes that affect you – either this year or a few years down the road. Remember that your financial plan is your long view: it needs periodic maintenance in order to work towards the results you want at the end.

Schedule a financial plan review to make sure your future is on track.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.